From: The Honorable Mark Pocan
Sent By:
alicia.molt@mail.house.gov

Date: 7/1/2016

Dear Colleague-

 

I invite you to join me in sending a letter to the “Big Six” higher education associations in support of preserving the intent of Prior-Prior Year FAFSA. This is a bicameral letter being led by Senator Tammy Baldwin in the Senate.

Last year, the Department of Education further simplified the college financial aid process for millions of students and their families by basing financial aid eligibility on the income
data from two years prior to the application, usually described as the “prior-prior year.” Allowing students to use prior-prior year (commonly referred to as “PPY”) tax data allows them to apply for financial aid at the same time they are applying for college.

Because of this significant change, college applicants can begin filling out their FAFSA on October 1 this year, rather than January 1, 2017.  Allowing students and their families to use
data from a tax year more widely available at the time of application builds on efforts to make college more accessible to all students. This fix provides families with more timely information about financing college and at an earlier stage, which is especially
helpful to first generation college students and at-risk populations.

However, with the advent of this “Early FAFSA,” we have seen some colleges and universities move up their priority financial aid deadlines, as referenced in stories featured in
both Politico Pro and
Education Week
.
This would shorten the window students have to apply and in many ways erases the benefits of moving to PPY – to give students, particularly low-income students, more time to apply and figure out their finances. 

Please join Senator Baldwin and me in sending a letter to the “Big Six” higher education organizations asking them to ensure that their member colleges and universities do not move forward
their priority financial aid deadlines so far as to undermine the benefits of Early FAFSA, particularly to low-income students. 

Given that colleges and universities are making these decisions now, we’re looking to send this letter as soon as possible.  Deadline for signatures is
COB Tuesday, July 5th.  Please contact Alicia Molt in Rep. Pocan’s office to sign on to this letter.

Sincerely,

 

Mark Pocan

Member of Congress

 

July XX, 2016

 

 

Ms. Molly Corbett Broad      

President

American Council on Education

One Dupont Circle NW

Washington, DC 20036

 

Dr. Walter Bumphus

President and CEO

American Association of Community   Colleges

One Dupont Circle NW, Suite 410

Washington, DC 20036

Dr. Muriel Howard

President

American Association of State Colleges and

     Universities

1307 New York Avenue NW, 5th Floor

Washington, DC 20005

Dr. Mary Sue Coleman

President

Association of American Universities

1200 New York Avenue NW, Suite 550

Washington, DC 20005

 

 

Mr. Peter McPherson

President

Association of Public and Land-grant

     Universities

1307 New York Avenue NW, Suite 400

Washington, DC 20005

Dr. David Warren

President

National Association of Independent Colleges

     and Universities

1025 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 700

Washington, DC 20036

 

 

Dear Ms. Broad, Dr. Bumphus, Dr. Howard, Dr. Coleman, Mr. McPherson, and Dr. Warren:

 

Nearly one year ago, many of us sent a letter to then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urging him to utilize the Department’s authority under the Higher Education Act to take a critical
step toward making it easier for more students to access federal financial aid and obtain a higher education. We were pleased when President Obama announced last year that that U.S. Department of Education would take this step and allow students to complete
the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) using two previous years’ tax data, also known as “prior-prior year” data. Utilizing prior-prior year data means that the FAFSA can now be made available to students three months earlier than it is currently—beginning
this October 1, rather than January 1, 2017—and students and their families have the potential to understand and consider their financial aid options sooner. Implementing this “Early FAFSA” will help millions of American families make more informed decisions
about higher education and has the potential to significantly increase college enrollment and completion.

 

However, making the FAFSA available earlier through the use of prior-prior year data is only one piece of the puzzle. On March 25, Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell sent a letter
to your member institutions urging them to take steps to support the Department’s FAFSA improvements, and we echo that request for your assistance. In order to fully realize the potential benefits of Early FAFSA for students, colleges and universities should
not simply move up their financial deadlines in ways that would disadvantage students who are most in need of the additional time to consider their financial options. Moving up priority aid deadlines would cause some students—particularly low-income students—to
be unable to file their paperwork on time, and as a result these students could lose out on important sources of financial aid they need in order to be successful in higher education.  To best serve students, we believe that institutions should strike a delicate
balance between providing aid packages at least a few weeks prior to the May 1 admissions decision deadline and without significantly moving their priority aid deadlines forward, particularly into December.

 

As we noted in our letter to the Department last June, “use of prior-prior year data is an opportunity for swift and consequential action to support low- and- middle-income students seeking
a shot at the American dream through higher education, and would allow the federal government to simplify the process that millions of students and families experience when applying for aid.” Students and their families cannot fully access that opportunity
without the support of colleges and universities across the country. While we appreciate that this positive change may cause some short-term complexity as colleges adjust to the new timeline, we believe the long-term gains for America’s students are well worth
the effort.

 

The colleges and universities you represent do so much every day to ensure that the federal financial aid system serves students well. We ask you to help us ensure that the promise of using
prior-prior year data is fulfilled and move toward our shared goal of increasing choice, access and persistence for every student, regardless of background.

 

Sincerely,

 

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